Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Travertine: All style, little substance

Trying to grab a few moments together while she's in town, SL and I met up for a very early dinner on Saturday evening at Travertine in Nolita.

It's located on a very desolate and unappealing stretch of Kenmare Street, and the open front of the restaurant let in all the street noise, including some vigorious honking wars. The restaurant itself is quite beautiful, sleek and well-put-together, with some of the nicest bathrooms I've seen in a while (seriously).

The service was a bit touch and go. I arrived first to our absurdly early reservation, and though faced with a 100% empty restaurant (literally. No other customers were there), I was directed to sit at the bar until the rest of my party arrived. Now, I don't want to get into a full-on discussion of this policy right now, but suffice it to say that when you're half of a party of two in a restaurant that consists entirely of empty seats, this just comes off as ridiculous. Furthermore, once SL arrived and we took our seats at a table, I brought along the glass of water I had been drinking at the bar and placed it on the table. When the runner came over to pour water, he poured water in the empty water glass that was part of the place setting in front of me and then stopped, puzzled at why there were three water glasses on the table. He stood for a good (awkward) several seconds, then pointed to my glass from the bar-- I explained that I'd taken it from the bar-- and then he (get this) MOVED my other water glass, which he had just poured, to put in front of SL, took away her empty glass, and left. Apparently you only get one glass per person. The whole thing was just awkward and vaguely hostile.

Anyway, on to the food. There's no bread basket, apparently, so we contented ourselves with the amuse bouche: a citrus and fennel salad. This was crisp and refreshing, if a little unwieldy to eat off the Asian spoon-- it's several bites' worth of veggies, and it basically just falls all over the table.

Kind of like Asian soup... right?

For entree, Sarah chose the pici with Italian sausage, fennel, and toasted breadcrumbs. The portion was small, but it looked like a hearty and well-composed dish.

Tiny bit of pasta for $18

My choice was the burrata. It was a medium-sized hunk of mozzarella, arranged almost like scrambled eggs on a plank of toasted white bread. There were some small cherry tomatoes scattered around along with a few shavings of zucchini and some tiny leaves of basil. Overall, the dish was enjoyable, with two quibbles: 1) it needed salt, and 2) the burrata actually wasn't that high quality. If I'm splurging for burrata, I expect the creamiest, melt-in-your-mouthiest mozzarella with a liquid cream center. This had no liquid cream center, and the cheese solids were of pretty standard quality. Again, it was tasty, but for $13 I expected just a bit more oomph.

Cheesy... just not the cheesiEST

We went elsewhere for dessert, so we paid the bill and left the still-almost-empty dining room. On balance, I think our experience at Travertine was thoroughly average-- the food was good but not spectacular, and the prices are pretty high for the small portions. The dining room is beautiful, but the restaurant's surroundings are bleak. It's kind of a toss-up as to whether I'd go back-- I'm hovering between two and three Offset Spatulas, but I think Travertine lands on the two side. There are better options in the area, especially given value for money.

19 Kenmare Street, at Elizabeth Street

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